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Home Seller - Make Needed Repairs

Aug 17, 2007
Before a buyer considers your home seriously, it must meet his needs in many ways. It must be a suitable neighborhood, commuting distance, size, layout, etc. If most of these needs are met, the buyer will move toward making an offer for your home. The purchase decision is an emotional and intellectual response, based on a level of trust in your home. So, it is logical that in preparing your home for sale your goal should be to enable the buyer to build trust in your home as quickly as possible. Your first step should be to address apparent and hidden repair issues.

Make a Complete List

Keep in mind that potential buyers and their real estate agents do not have the fond personal memories and familiarity that you have with your home. They will view it with a critical and discerning eye. Anticipate their concerns before they ever see your home. You may look at the leaky faucet and think of a $10 part at Home Depot. To a buyer this is a $100 plumbing bill. Walk through each room and consider how buyers are going to react to what they see. Make a complete list of all needed repairs. It will be more efficient to have them all done at once. Use a handyman to fix the items quickly. If your house is a fixer-upper, keep in mind that most buyers will expect to make a profit that is substantially above the cost of labor and materials. When a house needs obvious repairs, buyers will assume that there are more problems than meet the eye. Take care of repairs before marketing your home. Your home will sell faster and for a higher price.

Get an Inspection

It is a good idea to have your home inspected by a professional before putting it on the market. Your may discover some issues that will come up later on the buyer's inspection report. You will be able to address the items on your own time, without the involvement of a prospective buyer. You do not have to repair every item that is written up. For example, due to building code changes, you may not meet code for handrail height, spacing between balusters, stair dimensions, single glazed windows, and other items. You may choose to leave items such as these as they are. Just note on the inspection report which items you have repaired, and which are left as is. Attach the report to your Seller's Disclosure, along with any repair receipts that you have. A professional inspection answers buyers questions early, reduces re-negotiations after contract, and creates a higher level of trust in your home.

Offer a Service Contract

A home service contract may be offered to the buyer for their first year of ownership. For a fee of about $350 a third party warranty company will provide repair services for certain systems or components in the house for one year after the sale. These policies help to reduce the number of disputes about the condition of the property after the sale. They protect the interests of both buyer and seller.

Should You Remodel?

Our clients often ask if they should remodel their house before marketing. I believe the answer to this is no - major improvements do not make sense just before selling a home. Studies show that remodeling projects do not return 100% of their cost in the sales price. Normally, it does not pay to replace cabinets, re-do kitchens, upgrade bathrooms, or add space prior to selling. There is a fine line between remodeling and making repairs. You will need to draw this line as you review your home.

Repair Decisions

Countertops are outdated: If other components of the house are up to date, the kitchen may be greatly improved by new, modern countertops. Although this is an upgrade, not a repair, it may be worth doing because the kitchen has a significant impact on the value of your home.

Carpet is worn or outdated: Carpet replacement almost always worth doing. Sellers often ask if they should offer an allowance for carpet, and let the buyer choose. Do not take this approach. Choose a neutral shade, and make the change yourself. New carpet makes everything in the house look better.

Wall texture is poor: You may have an outdated texture style or acoustic ceiling. In most cases, it does not make sense to strip and re-texture the walls. Just repair any wall damage or minor texture problems.

Walls need paint: This is a must do! Freshly painted walls greatly improve the perception of your home. Don't forget the baseboards and trim. Use neutral colors, such as cream, sage green, beige/yellow, or gray/blue. Stark white, primary colors and dark colors do not appeal to a wide market, and may be a negative factor.

Bathroom caulking is dirty: Put this on the must do list. Cracked or stained caulking is a turn-off to buyers. It is easily replaced. Make sure the tile grout does not have voids.

Drainage or leak problems: Address any drainage issues or leaks in plumbing or roof. Use professional help to correct the source of the problem and check for mold. Fully disclose the repair on your sellers disclosure, but avoid giving a personal guarantee of the repair.

Structural and trim repairs: Fix any sheetrock holes, damaged trim, torn vinyl, broken windows, rotten wood or rusty fixtures. Homes sell for more that show a reasonable level of maintenance.

Overgrown shrubs and weedy beds: Repairs to the yard are some of the most cost effective changes you can make. Mow and edge the lawn. Add inexpensive mulch to flower beds. Cut back any shrubs that cover windows. Trim tree branches that rub against the roof. Buy new doormats. Replace dead plants. Remove any trash.

Check HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems: These systems need routine maintenance. Have the heat/AC system serviced and filters changed. Check for plumbing leaks, toilets that rock, corroded water heater valves, and other plumbing problems. Replace burned out bulbs and electrical fixtures that do not work. Check your sprinkler system and pool equipment for problems.

Make Needed Repairs

If you are planning to sell your home, your first step should be to discover and make needed repairs. By making repairs you will answer buyers questions early, build trust in your home more quickly, and proceed through the closing process with fewer surprises. Your home will appeal to more buyers, sell faster, and bring a higher price.
About the Author
Roselind Hejl, CRS, is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker United in Austin, Texas. Her website: Austin Texas Real Estate Guide offers homes for sale, search MLS, buyer and seller guides. "Let Roselind help you make your move to Austin."
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